Why weight – the perils of excess baggage

A word of advice for anyone planning to fly with excess baggage; be very careful which airline you choose!

In travelling around with our equipment, however portable it might be, there are often times when the question of excess baggage is raised; increasingly so as airlines tighten their belts.

We learnt through bitter experience a year or so back that the wrong choice of airline can make a difference of thousands of pounds to the cost of getting to and from the required destination.

We nearly succumbed to the same trap again this last week when booking flights for our technician to get out to Macau, China to record ISUOG’s (The International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology – rarely is an acronym so sorely needed!) 7th International Scientific Meeting which takes place at the end of this month.

Initially we booked with Cathay Pacific who seemed to be offering a good deal and the right flight times. Upon further inspection however it turned out that the excess baggage charges over and above the one checked bag allowed, would be $60 per kilo per leg; $120 for the round trip. Even for the modest single extra 20Kg bag we were planning this amounted to an eye-watering $2,400! More than four times the original ticket price!

Fortunately we saw the light in time (i.e. re read the small print on the Cathay Pacific website) and re booked on a Virgin flight for a similar ticket price but where an extra bag costs $48 each way; a saiving of $2304 on the round trip! (British Airways have a similar charging structure to Virgin.)

Why can’t all airlines be as sensible as Virgin and BA… at least as regards excess bagage?

3 thoughts on “Why weight – the perils of excess baggage”

  1. Let me add my experience to that. Cheaper is not always better. I have been badly burned by SAS and EasyJet, both charge by the kilo! Call ahead and then go to the website and PRINT THE PAGE relating to baggage charges. Ground staff don’t know or will ignore the rules.

    I am totally addicted to American Airlines frequent flier program and I have flown 2.5 million miles with them since 1986. Amongst other perks I get the occasional upgrade, to cut the line at check-in and security and probably the most valuable two free bags on all my flights. If you are a One World Premium member flash your card and you will get two free bags on AA.

    Here’s a good one AA won’t tell you at check-in. They have an Audio/Visual baggage discount. If you tell them you are a professional photographer or video crew or in production there are baggage discounts to be had. All you need is a business card that says video or photo or production somewhere on it and you qualify. By the way you can make a business card like this at home. Here is the text from the Americans Airlines web site:

    Audio/Visual Equipment
    Camera, film, lighting, and sound equipment will be charged a rate of $50.00 per piece when tendered by representatives of network or local television broadcasting companies, commercial film-making companies, professional photographers, the federal government, Department of Defense or the American Society of Media Photographers. These rates apply to travel within the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and international destinations. A maximum of 25 pieces is allowed per organization/company per American Eagle flight or 40 pieces for American Airlines flights. This policy is subject to seasonal and permanent baggage embargoes. The maximum size and weight allowances are subject to the policies in place for the destination.

    Here’s the rate for non AV folk.
    $25 for the first checked bag. $35 for the second checked bag.
    $100 per piece for the 3rd, 4th and 5th checked bags
    $150 per piece for the 6th checked bag and any additional pieces

    So tell them the first two bags are your personal stuff and pay $60 for them and use your AV discount for the rest.

    Again most ground staff don’t know this rule or will ask for employment details. All you need is a business card so print the following page when you travel American Airlines and save a bundle. http://www.aa.com/i18n/travelInformation/baggage/baggageAllowance.jsp

    Finally be careful of code-share flights. The airline that checks you in will want to charge their rate on the flight. I Flew to Hong Kong on a code share with Cathy Pacific. On the way out I checked in with American and paid $150 for 3 extra pieces. On the way home, checking in with Cathy they charged by the kilo, $2700!! I had same experience with American and British Airways. In both cases I paid and complained to American and eventually and reluctantly they reimbursed me.

    So if you don’t know or cannot prove the rules the airlines will try to take advantage.

    Happy trails.

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